While plants can make a lovely decorating statement, poisonous plants can kill pets. The deadliest plants must be chewed or swallowed for the poison to work. Even some of the most common decorative plants and flowers, such as daffodils and tulips, have parts that can be deadly to dogs.
Pet plant poisoning is a veterinary emergency that requires immediate medical attention. But you can save your pet’s life simply by steering clear of the worst plant offenders, both inside and outside your home.
Puppies are affected more often than older dogs, particularly breeds that eat anything that doesn’t move faster than they do. Paws, mouths, and sometimes ears and eyes also are vulnerable to spiky parts of plants.
What Plants Are Poisonous?
Some of the most dangerous houseplants are also some of the most common, including holiday favorites and garden mainstays. It's best to assume plants aren't good for your puppy and try to keep it from eating them. This includes plants like belladonna, English ivy, daffodils, tulips, foxglove, holly, rhubarb, yew, azalea, caladium, and nightshade. Keep your puppy away from these and all similar plants.
Be particularly aware of plants around holidays, as these are some of the most deadly. Plants like poinsettias cause only mild problems, such as excess salivation or mouth discomfort. Keeping these out of reach of curious paws may be sufficient to protect your pups. Others, like mistletoe, can kill your puppy if he eats just one or two berries. Even something that isn't inherently poisonous can be dangerous too; swallowed Christmas tree needles, for example, can damage the tender insides of a puppy.
In the spring, popular Easter flowers pose the greatest risks. Easter lily, tiger lily, rubrum lily, Japanese show lily and some species of the day lily can cause kidney failure. All parts of the lily are considered toxic. Consuming even small amounts can be life-threatening for cats, and lilies can poison your puppies, too.
Symptoms of Plant Poisoning in Puppies
One of the more obvious signs of plant poisoning is kidney failure. When a puppy ingests a poisonous plant like a lily, vomiting, lethargy, and loss of appetite may appear within a few hours and will continue to worsen as damage to the kidneys progresses. Without prompt and proper treatment, kidney failure can develop in 36 to 72 hours.
Other symptoms are specific to the plant eaten.
- Azalea: Vomiting, diarrhea, seizures, coma, and death
- Belladonna, datura, henbane, jessamine, jimsonweed: Red and dry skin, fever, seizures, thirst, dilated pupils
- Caladium, dieffenbachia, philodendron: Tongue and throat swelling, difficulty breathing
- Crown of thorns, English ivy: Thirst, vomiting and diarrhea, stomach pain, death in one to two days
- Daffodil, tulip, wisteria bulbs: Depression, violent vomiting
- Foxglove, larkspur, lily of the valley, monkshood, oleander: Depression, bloody diarrhea, fast or slow heart rate, stomach pain, coma, death
- Holly: Stomach pain, vomiting, and diarrhea
- Jerusalem cherry, nightshade, potato: Vomiting, bloody diarrhea, trembling, weakness
- Lily: Excess urination and drinking from kidney failure
- Mistletoe: Vomiting, diarrhea, slowed breathing and heart rate
- Mother-in-law’s tongue (snake plant): Mouth irritation to collapse
- Rhubarb: Vomiting, drooling, stomach pain, convulsions, kidney damage
- Yew: Muscle weakness, difficulty breathing, dilated pupils, sudden death without signs
If you see your pet with one or more of these signs, particularly if a suspect plant is within paw or nibble reach, get help immediately. First aid can save the puppy’s life. Then take the pet to see the veterinarian as soon as possible.
Treatment for Puppy Plant Poisoning
Different plant poisons require very specific first aid. Usually, that will be to either induce vomiting, or give milk or water to wash out the mouth, neutralize the poison, or dilute the toxicity.
Making the pet vomit the wrong poisonous plant, though, could make a serious situation even more deadly, so you must know what to do for each type of plant. If you're not sure, definitely consult your veterinarian.
Make your puppy vomit right away if it eats:
- Crown of thorns
- English ivy
- Wisteria bulbs
Vomiting may make the problems worse if your puppy eats some plants. Instead of inducing vomiting, give lots of water or milk to dilute the poison and to wash and coat the stomach if your puppy eats:
- Jerusalem cherry
- Mother-in-law’s tongue
- Potato (green parts/eyes)
How to Force Vomiting if Your Dog Is Poisoned
It's important to stress that you should consult with your veterinarian or an animal control center before giving your pet anything to induce vomiting. Most vets recommend avoiding ipecac or salt, two old-fashioned methods used on children. Both have serious side effects.
The other tried-and-true method of inducing vomiting in a human, putting your finger down your throat to activate the gag reflex, is also not recommended for getting a dog to throw up. You're likely to get bitten for your trouble, and it can hurt the dog.
The only home remedy recommended by veterinarians to induce vomiting in a dog is a solution of 3 percent hydrogen peroxide and water. Use an eyedropper or turkey baster to administer the solution slowly. It will foam a bit, and your puppy may not like the taste, but it should cause it to vomit within a few minutes.
Ask your veterinarian how much of the solution to give, and what the ratio of hydrogen peroxide to water should be. You may need to repeat the dose more than once.
How to Prevent Death From Plant Poisoning
You’ll also need to be ready to administer rescue breathing if necessary. When there’s a question about what first-aid to offer, call your veterinarian or an animal poison control center for accurate advice.
ASPCA Animal Poison-Control Center provides a database of common pet poisons and is available for telephone consultations (1-888-426-4435) in case of a poisoning emergency. You may be charged a fee for the consultation.
While there are ways to treat accidental poisoning in your pet, preventing plant poisoning is ideal. Choose only pet-friendly varieties for your garden and home.